View of the first public showing of Natura Technica at Assemble Gallery in Pittsburgh PA, 2014
I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on my Natura Technica images, and I think the prints stand for themselves visually as interesting works of art, but as my wife says, she likes "blurbs". I can't stand next to every print in a gallery or on the website and explain myself, so if you are interested in learning a little of what goes on in my head, read on.
I have been drawn to making art about nature from the very first drawings an paintings I made as a child. I still have a very old sketchbook which includes drawings of trees, birds and landscapes. The first "works of art" I ever gave away (in the sixth grade) were small watercolor landscapes I painted from my imagination. Landscape painters were my early influences and when I started taking classes with Walt Bartman the world of landscape painting consumed me for years.
But eventually I came to realize that animals were where it was at for me. As I mentioned in my post about wolves I started reading about animal behavior in high school. With a scientist father and brother, I was around discussions about animals all the time, and living on a small farm I certainly had the opportunity to watch domesticated animals as well.
Natura Technica focuses on animal species that require serious human intervention, study and control to continue to exist on this planet. The irony is, of course, the reason all of these species need such intervention is that human expansion and alteration of the planet has pushed them to the edge of extinction. These species are at the same time incredibly unlucky in that they did not evolve to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene, but at the same time are lucky enough to have survived to the day when it is within sciences power to keep them from tumbling over the brink.
Each Natura Technica image is made up of layers of data, research and information about that particular species. This data is found in journals and websites about the animal, and digitally collaged together. Small amounts of identifying visual information about the animal such as shape and marking overlay the digital collage. This pixel perfect image is then translated into the physical world in a printing process I have developed and called Hand Transferred Digital Printing. The resulting print has a significant amount of lost data and is a nice parallel for how imperfect scientific programs for saving these animals can be when applied in the real world.
One of the most influential books I have read while developing this body of work (and the inspiring source of the prints for the Whooping Crane, Lange's Metalmark Butterfly and the Polar Bear) is Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem. The subtitle of the book is "A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America" , and these words pretty well describe how I feel about Natura Technica, and if you like my work I recommend that you read the book.
These pieces are "conservationist" in the sense that they are about conservation; about the science and methods of conserving aspects of the world. My goal is not to dramatize the situation of these animals and is not to push an agenda, it is to point at the reality that thousands, probably millions, of unique living species are likely to go extinct (or already have) due to the impact of humanity. There are a large number of people who dedicate a lot of their time to keeping some of them alive, and if we want to help them, they would be more than willing to accept our help, however imperfect the results.